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Great Draft, Debatable Trades
June 24, 2001
That seems to be the
early summary of a weekend visit to Florida by Calgary Flames GM Craig Button.
It would be hard for
me to argue against the selection of Chuck Kobesew as Calgary's first pick in
the 2001 entry draft since I actually predicted the Flames would do exactly that
in my column last week.
At the risk of
repeating myself, Kobesew fits the new Calgary Flame mold of speed, speed, speed
along with aggressiveness and skill. The 5'11" height has worried some
critics but most juniors add 10 or 15 pounds by the time they hit 23 which means
Kobesew should fill out to a very formidable 210 or so. Size is not an issue
with this particular player.
To generate an extra
second round pick from Phoenix on top of that was excellent piece of work by
For those with long,
long memories you will remember a column one year ago where I suggested a Jason
Weimer for Rob Niedermayer trade, a deal I won't back away from.
The acquisition of
Niedermayer is consistent with other moves made by Button to this point. Speed.
Size. Two-way skill.
If a team is the sum
of its parts then Niedermayer is only one more cog in a team that is very
deliberately building one of the fastest lineups in the NHL. A swift lineup is
also far more capable of playing the defensive hockey demanded by new coach
Craig Gilbert. Many teams around the NHL have discovered it is far cheaper to
prevent 50 goals than it is to score the same number. The recent Niedermayer and
Conroy acquisitions are indications as to where Calgary is leaning.
And then there was the
cryptic non-comment from Button on Niedermayer in todays Calgary SUN. "I
can't comment as to why but we feel he can get back to the level of a 50- to
60-point player that's a real good two-way player for our team and size and
skating ability. Thats a strange thing to say unless he has his eye on
doing something else, perhaps a free agent winger. Or maybe the plan is to pair
Niedermayer with Jarome Iginla leaving Marc Savard as toast.
In sacrificing Weimer
the Flames had better be hoping the NHL doesn't change the instigator rule.
Otherwise picking up Niedermayer is a step up for the Flames.
As to Val Bure I spent
some time in this space in March suggesting Bure was worth essentially nothing
and therefore an argument could be made for holding on to him and attempting to
rehabilitate him. Button disagreed - call it Bure for a second rounder which
turns into Russian goaltending prospect Andrei Medvedev. Not exactly nothing but
this is the type of deal that could get ugly from a PR point of view if Bure
pots 35 goals next year in Florida. If there is any benefit it would be that
Bure will be doing it in the Eastern Conference and the Flames might face him
once or twice. That's a very small benefit.
But he's no longer a
large distraction in the Calgary dressing room either.
The most contentious
deal of the day had to be the acquisition of Roman Turek. Described as a
"klutz" in a goodbye column by one St. Louis columnist, Turek has his
fans and his detractors, posting generally excellent regular season numbers but
showing himself less than a money goalie in the playoffs.
The Flames would
really like only one thing from Turek - the game to game consistency that Fred
Brathwaite couldn't give them.
The loss of Brathwaite
will be particularly challenging for Flames fans. One of the three nicest
individuals to ever grace a Flames uniform, Brathwaite also had some impressive
stretches through the last few years where he practically carried the team on
With Calgary so far
out of contention by Christmas last year that only a miracle of mathematics
could have saved their season, Brathwaite did his best. But inevitably, the fact
he is not Dominik Hasek became readily evident. With a team that needed to win
every game, any Brathwaite mistake was magnified and he was very ordinary down
the stretch along with the rest of his teammates.
And very bad to start
Turek is here as a
solution to the consistency problem.
To give up Daniel
Tkazcuk though may turn out to be a crime. Button has a point in saying Tkaczuk
would not be playing in Calgary with Savard, Niedermayer, Conroy and Wilm down
the middle. At issue, however, is whether or not Tkaczuk should already be
considered a washout or a legitimate second line prospect. This is one aspect of
the Turek trade that may come back to bite Button in the butt. I didn't like it
Then again, look who
Button kept. Rico Fata. Speed, speed, speed. Some skill. Aggressive. But can he
play within a system?
How do I put this - I
like replacing Brathwaite with Turek but at what cost? And can the Flames
convince Turek to sign beyond this season? If not, this was an expensive
6", 198 lbs and taken in the second round of the draft as part of the
Phoenix deal, replaces Tkazcuk as an interesting prospect for a future role as a
second line centre. Again, a very good skater, a two-way player who understands
the game well, with good skills. He essentially comes to the Flames for free
just as, suspiciously, Calgary seems to have given Tkaczuk to the Blues for the
Probably the most
interesting thing about this draft for Button is the acquisition that didn't
happen. Button went into the action yesterday having said he wanted to improve
his goaltending and also acquire a player who would serve as a focal point, a
leader for the entire dressing room.
Is that Rob
Niedermayer or Roman Turek?
Which leads us into
all the things that never happened on Day One of this draft.
Mike Peca is still a
Buffalo Sabre. And getting unhappier by the moment with his mouthpiece, Don
Meehan, saying the Sabres continue to punish Peca for unspecified sins. No
argument here. Then again, Peca could have played last year in Buffalo for $2.8
million. His choice.
Eric Lindros, as of
this hour, is still a Philadelphia Flyer, although rumoured to be only moments
away from being a Detroit Red Wing.
Jaromir Jagr is still
a Pittsburgh Penguin.
No one is even talking
about trading Theo Fleury, he of a recent season ending rehab stay. We assumed
he was washed up as a Ranger but there he remains.
And what of the final
rounds of the draft today - a fine place for everyone to shuffle salary off on
other teams in exchange for obscure late round picks. Is this the last day for
Phil Housley as a Flame? Or Adam Graves as a Ranger?
Looking ahead, we
still have July 1 to cross, the date when the greatest load of unrestricted free
agents in history gets let out of school.
For not only Button,
but the rest of his NHL GM brethren as well, training camps are still nine weeks
More can happen. This
weekend is not necessarily the shaping of the final lineup for October.
Button has those
remaining weeks to consider the other remaining questions of the day. Has he
given up too much scoring without enough coming back? Does he need to look for a
UFA second-line player or is he really going to rely on the unproven Jukka
Hentunen? Is Turek really an improvement over Brathwaite? Can Niedermayer pick
up the 20 goals he needs to make this trade tilt towards a saw-off? Will coach
Greg Gilbert really be able to follow through on his vow to make the Flames one
of the NHL's best defensive teams in only one season, the only way the local
boys can offset their noticeable lack of scoring power? In fact, are the young
defencemen spearheading the charge up to the task? Are the Flames tough enough
And the biggest riddle
of them all - can a chubby kid (Andrei Medvedev) really play goal?
Flames fans had
demanded change. They got what they wished for. And it's not over yet.
DON'T WANT TO GET INTO THE ECONOMICS of the league but I think teams are looking at how
much money they want to spend and how best to spend it, as opposed to just
spending it and spending it. There are so many free agents, restricted and
unrestricted, that teams are looking at how to best spend their money. With
arbitration now, you're looking at 20-goal scorers making $2 million. You can't
do anything to stop it except lose the player. So you have to find ways to save
and spend wisely.'' Boston GM Mike O'Connell pondering the future of star centre
Jason Allison, probable recipient of a $7 million top-up this summer.
LINDROS, JAGR OR YASHIN ARE TRADED,
it's hard for clubs to see where a player such as a Valeri Bure fits in to the
equation. It may have to wait until the very last moment - if at all." -
Toronto President Ken Dryden, for some reason talking to the Herald's Bruce
Dowbiggin about a player on the roster of another team.
VERY COMFORTABLE VALERI WILL BUY INTO what we're doing
here,'' Panthers general manager Bill Torrey.
IS A GOOD-SIZED PLAYER that skates well, and for
whatever reason, we didn't think that he was performing up to his level of play.
'We feel that he can get back to the level of a 50- to 60-point player that's a
real good two-way player for our team.''
THINK BRATHWAITE CAN COME IN and play alongside Brent
(Johnson). We believe Johnny has a chance to be a No. 1 goalie in the future,
but that has yet to be proven.'' - Blues GM Larry Pleau.
A NEW TEAM, A NEW CITY. I've talked it over with my
family (wife Helena and his nine-year-old son named, naturally, Eddie) and we're
ready to go." Roman Turek talking about coming to Calgary.